Neem, Ayurveda’s Favorite Remedy For Inflammation
Neem, the body’s fire fighter
Herbs are like people in that they have unique personalities that can be understood through dravyaguna.
Dravyaguna is the system of Ayurvedic pharmacology that was developed thousands of years ago before chromatography and mass spectrometry and so it relies on qualities deciphered through taste.
This is the herb monograph for Neem.
Neem To Reduce Inflammation
Neem, The Body’s Fire Fighter
Character: The Bitter Green Blessing
Latin Name: Azadirachta indica
Living on the West Coast we have had one of the hottest summers in history and excess heat causes a lot of fires. The body has a similiar mechanism. Heat is not a bad thing and the body uses heat when we strain a muscle in order to bring the necessary nutrition and immunological repair cells to the area. I guess the white blood cells like a warm summer day as much as anyone on the West coast. If however this short term response does not end, just like if the hot days of summer don’t turn into the cool days of fall then our insides can light themselves on fire. This is called inflammation and it is is becoming the most important mechanism to manage for longevity and health.
When a fire fighter is faced with inflammation they employ these 5 steps:
- Read the fire
- Remove fuel sources
- Apply water
- Beat out the fire
- Apply a fire retardant
An Ayurvedic practitioner will employ almost identical steps:
- Assess the cause of inflammation
- Stop behaviors that feed the fire
- Increase or maintain hydration
- Engage in appropriate exercise
- Use Neem as a fire retardant
Neem is an Ayurvedic fire fighter’s favorite remedy when it comes to inflammation. But just like a real fire retardant it is extremely cooling and dampens the flame so much, that it must be used wisely. It could put out the body’s natural and necessary heat source. Let’s look at some of it’s qualities.
Guna (Qualities): Light, dry
Rasa (Taste): Bitter
Vipaka (Post-digestive effect): Pungent
Virya (heating or cooling): Refrigerant
Prabhava (special action): Immunomodulator
Main Action: Hepato-protective, immune stimulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, contraceptive, antiviral and anti-fungal
Action on Doshas: Decreases Pitta and Kapha; Increases Vata (in excess)
Action on Dhatus: Good for all dhatus
An herb’s rasa or taste is often an indication of its medicinal qualities. Neem is perhaps the most bitter herb in the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. The bitterness of Neem makes it effective in removing congestion caused by Kapha and inflammation caused by Pitta. As the bitter taste increases the Vata dosha it can make one feel spacey and emotionally off kilter when consumed in high doses over time. This is partly due to Neem’s blood sugar lowering effect which can lead to low blood sugar. As one of the seats of Pitta is found in the eyes, Neem has been used for centuries to help protect the eyes from strain, dryness and heat. Another seat of Pitta is in the skin and Neem is well known for helping alleviate rashes when used topically. It also helps in diabetes by lowering the blood sugar and improving liver metabolism. It can be used topically for rashes or joint inflammation. Neem has a long history of use in India and it is often said that Neem is a gift of good health because of its versatility.
- Chicken pox (Sharma 2002, 469)
- Jaundice (Sharma 2002, 120)
- Acid reflux and vomiting associated with gastritis (Sharma 2002, 168, 265)
- Gout and eczema (Sharma 2002, 236)
- Intestinal parasites associated with anemia and dyspnea (Sharma 2002, 347).
- Premature aging and grayness associated with anger and physical strain (Sharma 2002, 490).
Neem has been used as an insecticide to kill mosquitoes, flies, beetles, worms, cockroaches and moths, without harming beneficial insects such as wasps, butterflies, bees, spiders and earthworms.
- Neem’s cooling nature can lead to gas or indigestion.
- Because of its antiviral, antibiotic, antacids and blood sugar lowering effect it can compete with similar medications so it is best to work with a practitioner.
- Not recommended for pregnant or breast feeding mothers.